My Lufthansa seatmate had gone to school in Heidelberg, and he was surprised that I wasn’t going to be staying in the town, but rather in the little suburb of Dossenheim. “What’s in Dossenheim?” he asked me.
“The White Rock,” I burblingly replied. “I’m going to go hiking to the White Rock.”
“Well, what’s up there?” he asked. I really didn’t know. It was simply a place we’d gone hiking when I was a child. I vaguely remembered old ruins, a funky radio tower, and I’d heard rumors (on the web) that there was a pub there as well. And, yes, a white rock with a sign on it.
“A white rock, I guess,” feeling retarded even as I said it. He just looked vaguely amused, as most Germans tended to look when I spoke German with them. To each his own, his expression read. Heidelberg has a castle, a university, legendary bars, and a vibrant old city. And me, I was going to the suburbs to see a white rock.
No one outside of Dossenheim had ever heard of the White Rock. But everyone in Dossenheim had. I arrived so early I decided I could make the hike there and back before it got dark. So I dropped my luggage in the cute little inn I was staying at, and decided to go climb that mountain. I asked everyone on the street how to get there, and replies to my inquiry were answered almost always beginning with “The White Rock, oh, it’s so pretty!” It had me actually wondering if the correct pronounciation of “the White Rock” was actually “The White Rock, oh, it’s so pretty!”
And the Dossenheimers were happy to help me get there as quickly and easily as possible. After scaling the first portion of the hill behind Dossenheim I got to the trailhead. I thought the woman had directed me to the “three acorns” fountain, but it turned out to be the “three measures” fountain. What three measures they are, I have no idea.
I found out that in Germany trail markers aren’t signs, the way there are in California, but rather numbers spray-painted on trees. I looked for the spraypainted yellow 7s which corresponded to the path to the White Rock, and a jogging Dossenheimer told me of a short cut I could take directly through the woods to get to the top of the hill.
When I got there, I found a marker rock. I kind of remember that rock, which had the names of places (including White Rock) engraved on top of it, but time had not been kind to it, and it’d been graffiti’d as well. It looked like the White Rock was still a ways off, along a paved road along which Germans were zipping up in their little mini-cars and mountain bikes. I headed along that path, and then just gave up.
This wasn’t what I wanted. What I really wanted was my family. But my parents are dead and my childhood is over. My own family was now far away in California. I missed them. I was tired. I was thirsty. And I was hungry.
I put on my iPod and headed back down to Dossenheim.
The White Rock may be oh so pretty, but for me it’s more precious as a memory than as a new adventure. And of that, I had plenty to experience in modern Germany.